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Population cutting the Gordian knot: ways and means to do so...!

The people at large will then take heed, and look round and find ways and means to cry a halt to procreating more children. Care is, however, to be taken to provide more facilities to the people in terms of preventive devices etc. All along a publicity-cum-propaganda campaign is carried on in the press and other media telling people at large that population control is in the larger interests of the nation; and that more advantages will come out of it than disadvantages, if any.

The problems plaguing Pakistan are multiple and diverse, and their immensity is puzzling indeed: Some of these problems are in a way hereditary such as the Kashmir problem which the British gave it to this country as a parting kick at the time of independence, while the rest of them are of our own making. It is painful, indeed, that policy-makers on most occasions failed to lend a serious thought to what they were going to do nor they cared to see things in their proper perspectives and nor they perhaps lent scientific shape to the measures they were about to adopt; nor they bothered to institutionalise ideas as they put them into practice, so that schemes and plans of very useful nature revolved around personalities, and thus lived and died with them. This is true of policies in the numerous spheres of the national activity be it finance, commerce education, health or social welfare etc. etc.

Viewed against this backdrop, our population planning programme has equally been victim of individual whims, and has by turns been active at one time and dormant at another, the result being that our population had had occasion to increase by leaps and bounds. It was during the regime of President Ayub that some serious efforts to stem the tide of increasing population were made before that the educated elite were known to be taking preventive steps in the directions of population control and with lukewarm success, of course-one obvious drawback of this individual and in fact sporadic effort was that better citizens of the future who deserved to be in this world by dint of merit were virtually prevented from visiting it; and do miracles, while their counterparts in the meantime were born in their thousands in shanty towns and other areas inhabited by the lower and lower middle classes adding in their turns to the community's economic and social problems, negating ultimate analysis whatever little development there was in the country in those early times.

President Ayub soon after he was in the saddle took steps to formalise things and give them a proper shape. It was at his instance that the department of population planning was founded in the country, a leading medical practitioner and wife of a senior civil servant, Dr. Atia Enayatullah, was given charge of it. Soon after, the country's atmosphere rang with the holding of symposia and seminars in which discussions were held on the numerous devices that were in vogue and were about to be introduced among the people most susceptible to population increases. Discussions ranged from pills (for ladies' use) and went upto what was known as Lippes' Loop' which soon became subject of table talk in most middle and upper middle class families in addition to symposia and seminars at official and semi-official levels. On men's side full-scale campaigns were launched to introduce vasectomy as a sure and more effective means of birth control, though there was a certain amount of prejudice going along with it . . .!

In neighbouring India, the government of Mrs. Indira Gandhi was sent home packing on account of the public odium it earned, particularly among the Muslims who saw it as a device to turn the community into a minority in course of time. In Pakistan nothing of the kind happened; yet the department of population control went to sleep after president Ayub's dethronement from the country's presidency, to rise again from the deep slumber, in the nineties, when some pep was put into it by Begum Syeda Abida Hussain, who became a social welfare minister initially in the cabinet of late Gen. Ziaul Haq, and latterly in the Nawaz Sharif Government, before her transfer to the USA in her capacity as Pakistan's ambassador to that country. So, as mentioned earlier, the population planning programmes in Pakistan have been subservient to personalities and the amount of interest taken by them. Now as things are, we see advertisements on radio and television persuading people not to have more children than two or three, in their own interest. Also some family planning consultancy centres are said to be functioning under some kind of camouflage advising people to go to (for consultations on the subject). But in spite of all this, there does not seem to be much consciousness among the people of the need to exercise birth control as a policy stroke ensuring social well-being and security in the short as well as the long term.

The whole thing is yet timid and imbecile, and in ultimate analysis infructuous with the result that the population is multiplying at a fast rate (of 3.5 per cent one of the highest, if not the highest, in the world). No one other than our rulers know that consequences of a burgeoning population are going to be serious for us, if not altogether disastrous if the number of people visiting this planet remains unchecked through the various devices in vogue. There is, therefore, need for greater publicity of the issue through the media. Also more seminars and symposia are required to be held on the subject and more frequently. The p.w. feels that vasectomy is the best way out for men. If the people at large are acquainted with the advantages of the device, this is going to be damn popular among the masses, and an effective brake could be applied to the population growth. Not merely this, people at large be given to understand that unless they are going to exercise birth control on voluntary basis, a tax will be imposed on the defaulters viz., those who reproduce more than two children. This, for sure, is going to prove an effective deterrent than any thing else, and people will not resent it too for after all they will have two issues free of tax charge.

Unmitigated populational pressures manifesting themselves in shortages, among others, in terms of infrastructure facilities have obliged Pakistan to go in for borrowings both from indigenous and foreign sources in which consequence the country has landed into a labyrinth of difficulties of financial nature, and now a vicious circle has been formed out of which a way is difficult to find unless Herculean efforts are made. The vicious circle consists in more populational pressures, more borrowings, more development which stands neutralised by increase, from year to year, in number of mouths to be fed, and bodies to be clothed, and families to be housed, more schools and colleges for the incoming generations and more hospitals to look after the sick.

From what our experience has been during the last 45 years of Pakistan's existence, we can say that nothing short of drastic action is going to do the trick. In other words, only legislative measures can save an otherwise desperate situation. The present time is very much opportune, and the government is safely in a position to deliver the goods. A law can be passed banning children in an average family beyond two: over and above this number will be taxed. The people at large will then take heed, and look round and find ways and means to cry a halt to procreating more children. Care is, however, to be taken to provide more facilities to the people in terms of preventive devices etc. All along a publicity-cum-propaganda campaign is carried on in the press and other media telling people at large that population control is in the larger interests of the nation; and that more advantages will come out of it than disadvantages, if any.
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Title Annotation:Pakistan's population policy
Author:Ali, Syed Abid
Publication:Economic Review
Date:Jul 1, 1993
Words:1342
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